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Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

It’s no secret that older adults can benefit immensely from pet ownership. But for some, the demands of owning an animal may seem too strenuous. This guide can help you decide if adding a furry companion to your family is a good idea and help you choose a pet that will fit your lifestyle.

Besides bringing joy and meaning to your life, owning a pet has many proven health benefits as well.

Physical contact with an animal can significantly lower blood pressure, which can also lower your risk for a heart attack.

  • Pets are an excellent source of companionship, and act as a buffer against social isolation, which helps combat depression (one of the most common medical problems facing the elderly).

  • Pets can help reduce stress and anxiety.

  • The routine and structure of caring for a pet helps keep the brain active, which can prevent memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Consistently performing exercises (walking, feeding, grooming and playing) keeps you physically active, significantly reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease and helping keep your joints flexible and limber.

Most importantly, when your career ends and your kids grow up and establish their own independent lives, the satisfaction of taking care of another living thing keeps you feeling useful and of value. Pets give us a sense of purpose, a reason to get up in the morning and a friend to take on the day with.

Ideal Pets For Older Adults

When choosing a pet, you want to make sure it is a good match for your budget, lifestyle, and personality. Before you go running to fill out adoption papers, know what you’re getting into, and what benefits and challenges are associated with each type of pet.

  • Dogs are man’s best friend. They are fiercely loyal and protective, unconditionally loving and offer great social stimulation. Trained service dogs can even help seniors with mobility issues complete their daily activities and chores. However, dogs are also the most expensive, and require the most training, care and attention.

  • Cats are social animals and love attention, but they require less training and maintenance than dogs. They develop their own routines and are relatively independent, making them ideal companions for pet owners that have less time or those that like to travel.

  • Birds are incredibly vocal, making them an ideal choice for people who live alone. Birds can also be trained to obey certain commands, but don’t require the level of care, grooming, and time that cats and dogs do.

  • Fish are affordable, extremely low maintenance, and great stress relievers. Although many only live a few years, goldfish have an average lifespan of five to 10 years.

Adopt, Don’t Shop

Once you’ve determined what type of pet you want, you’re next step will be to figure out where to find them.

There are several reasons why adopting a pet is recommended over buying one from a pet store or breeder.

  • You may save the animal from being euthanized.

  • Adoption will cost you less ($50 to $300 vs. $500 to $1,000 or more).

  • When you adopt, you usually do not have to pay all the initial puppy fees such as spaying/neutering and routine vaccinations.

  • Adopting a pet often mean less work for you (many rescues are already well-socialized and house-trained).

  • Pet adoption helps fight puppy mills.

  • You and a rescue professional can work together to find a pet that not only fit your needs, but one that you connect with.

Shelters and rescue groups have a wide selection of animals in need of good homes. If you have a specific pet or breed in mind, that makes the shopping all the easier! There are plenty of rescue groups for specific breeds and types of animals.

Planning For Your Pet’s Future When You’re Gone

Our pets are a central part of our families. Many of us even consider them our children, so it makes sense that we would plan for their future as such.

Planning for your loving companion’s future when you’re gone isn’t difficult, it just takes some time and thought. Start by making sure that someone you trust knows you have the pet. This person should be willing and able to jump in on short notice and take care of your pet in the event that you’re hospitalized, debilitated, or unable to return home unexpectedly.

Click here for more tips on aging with good health and living an active lifestyle.
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